Tuesday, April 24, 2012

An Invaluable Partnership

For me, the most invaluable part of the Classroom to Community experience has been working with and learning from my Teach for America (TFA) partner. My TFA partner is Nina Hyvarinen, a 7th grade biology teacher at Bethune Middle School.

The value (and luxury) of having a partner really hit me while Nina and I revised my first lesson plan. Prior to our meeting, I was having a hard time understanding the difference between an objective-driven lesson and an activity-driven lesson and why/how an objective-driven lesson is more effective. Nina helped me by explaining the purpose of each section of the lesson plan in detail and by giving examples from her own experiences writing lessons. She went through my lesson, section-by-section, showing me not just how to re-work it, but why.

I went back to look at my first drafts, which I had written over a month ago, and compared it to the final drafts and was amazed by the differences (it is so embarrassing to look at now!). My final lesson plans are much more condensed in information, but more explicit in directions; anything I will say in class is written in the lesson plan. My original plan for my first lesson had 6 objectives that the students would be able to complete at the end of the lesson and 15 key points of new information that they would learn. Many of these key points were not specifically related to the objectives and thus were not included in the guided practice or independent assessment. I would never have been able to complete my original lesson on time, and there was too much information for students to remember. My final plan had only 3 objectives and 11 key points. These key points were all relevant to the objectives and were repeated 3 times: in the introduction to new material, during guided practice, and during the independent assessment.

After each lesson, Nina and I “debriefed” on what went well and what didn't. She pointed out what my strengths were (presenting information clearly so that all students could understand) and what I still need to work on (giving clear directions and then holding students to it, i.e. wearing my “teacher pants”). I don't think I have ever been so happy or willing to receive constructive criticism.

How have your TFA or Rollins partners helped you to grow?

~ Erica Hazra, Rollins School of Public Health

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